Caring for an aging parent can be a difficult reality for the person who is facing that transition. It is a dramatic shift to move from the role of child to a caregiver. Many of us have friends who find themselves in this situation where their parent is seriously ill or experiencing a slow decline.

Their lives are turned upside down as they now need to turn their focus on dealing in unchartered territory, figuring out how best to care for their parent while balancing their everyday responsibilities at home and at work. It is a fine balance that often leads to little time for their own needs, especially if they still have their own children living at home.  

It is most likely that they are completely consumed with their own parent’s situation, with little time to think of anything else. They don’t have the time to devote to your friendship as they used to but at the same time, you want to show your support and are uncertain as to what to do for them.

When offering help, it is important to remember that they are most likely overwhelmed and when asked “Is there anything I can do?” they will most likely not be able to answer. This doesn’t mean they don’t need your help. They absolutely do. Instead, here are a few things you can do. 

  • Always be supportive - listen to them, even when it is a daily topic in your conversations.
  • If they need to move their parent(s) out of their home into an assisted living facility, offer to help them pack and move.
  • Accompany them on errands to keep them company or ask them about specific errands that need to be taken care of that you could do for them. 
  • If you are comfortable with it, offer to take a shift to visit their parent to give them some time off.
  • Send them a gift basket with some of their favourite things or write a thoughtful note expressing to them that you are there for them.
  • Meals - invite them over for dinner, take them out to a restaurant, or give them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.
  • If they have children, offer to have them over for dinner, take them to a movie, allowing your friend to focus on their parent.
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